Last year, Provo’s Freedom Festival Grand Parade organizers revoked, on July 3, the pre-approved application of Encircle: LGBT + Family & Youth Resource Center to march in the July 4th parade, classifying it an advocacy group, which are prohibited from participating in the parade.
At best, this was a shortsighted and irresponsible decision by festival organizers. At worst, it was deliberate and discriminatory. Either way, this decision was hypocritical. To revoke permission for an approved organization (and one with no history of advocacy) to march less than 24 hours before the parade while allowing other organizations that routinely influence public policy is completely disingenuous, wrote Kyle Chilton, a BYU employee, in a Deseret News op-ed piece.
Earlier this March funding of $100,000 for this year’s parade was held off because of last year’s incident. Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie said he couldn’t support spending taxpayer dollars on events that are not inclusive, according to Fox13 News.
“Anytime we start to exclude groups or individuals from an event, especially a publicly funded event because their views are different than ours, I don’t think that’s American,” said Commissioner Ivie.
On March 20 the Utah County Commission approved the taxpayer funds to the Freedom Festival — with the stipulation that the nonprofit abide by a non-discrimination agreement.
However, festival organizers have argued being made to include specific “issues groups” would undermine the purpose of the event, so it remains to be seen if the event will utilize county funds after the passage of the clause.
ABC4 News reported that a Utah County attorney said forcing the event to support a gay-centered message would compromise the message of the event itself.
“I’m not against an anti-discrimination clause,” said Dani Palmer, an attorney who represented Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative think tank. “What I am against is being forced to provide a message that … furthers the breakdown of the family.”
Event organizers told The Salt Lake Tribune that they would use private funding to put on the parade, a possible loophole of the nondiscrimination clause in deciding who may participate.
“That agreement will not apply to the parade,” said Paul Warner, executive director of the festival.
The county agreement with the Freedom Festival originally included the parade in its provisions, Commission Vice Chairman Bill Lee told The Tribune, but later removed it for “functionality.”